What Is Goodness?

We are told by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita that goodness is many things. It includes bravery, purity, contemplation of the soul, worship of God, study of holy texts, strength, straightforwardness, truthfulness, peacefulness, kindness, gentleness, the absence of anger, detachment, repentance for transgressions, forgiveness, humility, truthfulness and vigor.

This is a comprehensive set of qualities. Though most of us would agree that these qualities do represent the better side of humans, some might of us, particularly those of us who are not inclined toward orthodoxy, may question whether the worship of God and the study of holy texts equate with traits like kindness.

I wonder why God, who is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere seems to have a great need to promote Himself and to persuade us to believe in Him [or Her?] Can’t we just take the force that is God for granted and move on from there?

See Chapter 16 of The Gita, a New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.

A Skeptic’s Critique of the Hindu View of the Soul

In his introduction to my book On Hinduism, Ravi Heugle questions the validity of the soul’s existence. He equates the soul to the mechanism that moves a watch or clock. Ravi writes:

The soul will render itself superfluous to any consistent description of a life form. In describing a watch, if we understand all mechanisms and principles of operation, no additional idea or concept is necessary to explain its purpose, function of state. I have faith that I do not inhabit my body, but I am because of my body. The establishment of a unified blueprint of life by science will exile the soul and the assumption of the existence of the soul will prove itself to be invalid. Thereafter, the soul will solve serve as a potent synonym for human identity.

I believe this analysis disavows the soul because our human minds lack capacity to define their nature. Yet, lack of definition or explanation does not negate the soul’s existence, even if we can only grasp at the outer edges of its reality.

What is your view of the soul?

See A Skeptic’s Perspective in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

Fictional Astrology

Astrology is an opinionated science. There is something to it, but it is not reliable. It is subject to interpretation and it is certainly fodder for quacks and manipulators. Yet we cannot totally ignore the influence of stars, so we view their influence as comforting or disquieting depending on the messages we get.

I have seen cannily accurate personal histories written about friends and relatives that described their lives in surprising detail. The astrologers picked pages out of a collection of supposedly ancient texts. I have seen written good and awful predictions come happily or horribly true. I have seen skeptics become believers and believers turn into cynics. But my strangest astrological experience has been with a prediction pertaining to a fictional character.

I was writing my first novel, The Pokhraj, and decided upon a date for the birth of its protagonist. I submitted the date and circumstances of birth to an astrologer in order to use the predictions in formulating my character’s personality and future. However, the horoscope did not arrive and my character evolved. So, I decided I would proceed writing and alter the horoscope if and when I received it or else I would make one up. After all, the work was fiction.

Much later I finally did get the requested horoscope and to my great surprise everything matched what I had already written.

See The Pokhraj, by Irina Gajjar

Zero

The notion of zero is philosophical as well as mathematical in Hinduism. Here is an explanation:

The Sanskrit word for zero is sunya which translates as “nothingness.” Brahman, God in his formless, immutable, timeless, memory-less state prior to Creation, is called Nirguna Brahman or Brahman with no attributes. Nirguna Brahma exists in nothingness. With the happening of Creation, Nirguna Brahma becomes Saguna Brahma, the God with attributes who is Ishvar. Zero symbolizes God in nothingness. Zero added to or subtracted from any number does not change the number. The sum of zero and zero is zero. Zero added to or subtracted from itself remains zero. Multiplied by itself, zero is still zero. However, the addition of zero to the right of any number (without a decimal point) increases it up to infinity and its addition to the left of any number (with a decimal point) decreases it down to the infinitesimal.

Zero’s complement must be “everythingness.” Everythingness differs from everything just like “nothingness” differs from nothing. The idea of zero embraces the idea of its opposite, totality. We say God is everythingness and nothingness because we have no better words to describe the unfathomable existence or nonexistence that transcends itself. Thus, zero to Hinduism is more than a mathematical tool. It represents God’s truth that lies beyond human experience and the material world, truth that is just beyond the reach of the human mind.

See Chapter Three, Monotheism in On Hinduism, by Irina N. Gajjar

God Loves Those Who Love God

Loving God is a key theme in the Gita. In Chapter 9, Lord Krishna tells us that loving God is the Holy Secret and the key to attaining ultimate freedom from cycles of birth and death. He explains that God is everything and everywhere. He is the creator and more because the very notion of the world is His. Thus, even the worst sinners are liberated by the love of God.

In Chapter 12 of the Gita, Lord Krishna describes all the good things that happen to those who love Him. He tells us that those of us who do love God are dear to Him. But He does not talk about loving humanity to the extent that He speaks of the power of our loving Him. It is through our understanding and love of the divinity that we merge into the Lord and attain ultimate salvation.

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina Gajjar.

How to Communicate with Aliens

The latest way I heard of to communicate with aliens is via thumbnail sized satellites that can move through space more quickly than anything we have tried before.

It seems that these mini satellites might go out and return information within decades rather than light years. So perhaps some of you younger folk might receive messages.

But maybe some of us will receive or have received messages before that. Maybe when we tried to tell others about these messages, no one believed us. Or maybe we were sworn to silence. Or maybe some of us just imagined communications.

I think that if even we imagine an event like a communication from other worlds or galaxies it either happened or it will happen. And since we are not sure about the distinction between past, present and future either, we cannot tell where or when. Who knows what has happened or is happening or will happen. But in my view, whatever we eventually may learn, it is almost certain that intelligent life exists out there.

Read New New York, 3000 Years Later to consider interaction with beings in other universes.

New New York

The New New York is here. It invites businesses to come to New York and to become New Yorkers. Its advertisements tell us as much. I love the Old New York, but the New New York is even better because it is doing a lot. It is building new airports and new roads and bridges across the state. It is adding new mass transit. It is creating business friendly environments and lowering taxes. It is creating partnerships to grow the businesses of tomorrow today.

I wondered what an even Newer New York would be like several thousand years into the future and described a vision that was both good and bad, just like every place always is. New York City remains the central heartbeat of our planet. But it has problems. It struggles with globalism and with intrusive technologies. It wonders about other worlds and fears aliens. It deals with robotic intelligence. Consider the possibilities.

See New New York, Three Thousand Years Later, by Irina Gajjar.

Change

Like our parents’ always reminded us, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” But change itself is what makes things different.

While those of us who are no longer young find persistent novelty and presumed improvement disconcerting, our youth enjoy it. They like stuff that is faster and more impactful and they like multiple options. They like endless cereal choices, endless television channels, and multiple options between smaller and smaller or bigger and bigger. They like complexities. They don’t miss plainer, slower, quieter and simpler choices.

There is no value judgment to be made regarding change. It will continue to happen whether we want it to or not. But change needs to be recognized as a force. In particular we need to respect that new stuff presents new experiences and demands both new decision making and new learning. Thus, as parents, teachers, friends and counselors we need to know that change can be overwhelming, and we should not take it for granted or expect others to deal with it alone.

Dharma

The idea of dharma is a central belief of Hinduism. Its meaning cannot be easily described or translated. Like karma, it is a fundamental concept.

The essence of Dharma is duty, but it is more. It is a universal principle as well as a personal principle. Hindu scripture says:

Dharma is truth.

It is said that

one who speaks truth

speaks dharma

and one who speaks dharma

speaks truth.

Bhridaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14

Dharma embraces family life, social life and spiritual life. It is the guideline known as Sanatana Dharma meaning Eternal Law or Eternal Order which actually defines Hinduism.

See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

Exhausted

Whatever our politics, Americans, Europeans and people in developed nations are exhausted.

We disagree to the point of absurdity. Antagonists and supporters of candidates, officials or policies struggle when we see that our resistance or support will have to go on and on and on. We are tired of arguing, of losing friends, and of pretending that politics are not the elephant in the room. We are tired of the news and we feel guilty when we hide from it. We feel guilty when we do not do as much as we think we should and useless when whatever we do seems to be an exercise in futility.

Is there a solution? Can we see a silver lining in the fact that so many more people are engaged in government affairs? Perhaps, because in a sense the ability to disagree is a great freedom. What do you think?

See New New York, 3000 Years Later to consider a society which requires everyone to behave according to the motto “One Spirit! One Word! One World!”